By April, the lack of college football can turn a spring game into the ultimate fools’ gold for fans. When a program locks down for spring ball the way that Oklahoma does, the temptation to jump to grand conclusions based on the annual Red-White Game is strong.
Stars usually see little action and coaches typically keep the schemes pretty vanilla in the spring, which also add degrees of difficulty in assessing the scrimmage. All that said, Homerism bravely tried to cut through the clutter to give loyal readers a rundown of the key takeaways from our last look at the Sooners until the fall.
Note that given the unique nature of the situation, I focus my attention on individual players, as opposed to the squad in general.
*The race to replace Landry Jones has dominated the stories coming out of spring camp. With practices closed off to any prying eyes, inquiring minds have had to rely on the coaching staff to handicap the contest. They’re not the most forthcoming bunch.
Well, if we’re going just off today’s action, we can call off the competition.
While Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight didn’t exactly disappoint, junior Blake Bell looked like the clear choice. Bell demonstrated superior command of the offense and played with the kind of poise you’d expect from a fourth-year player. Knight and Thompson made their fair share of plays with both their feet and their arms, but the O operated at its highest, most consistent level with Bell running the show.
At this point, I’d be very surprised if Bell isn’t taking the first snap this fall. (Doesn’t look like I’m alone on this.)
*I expect Thompson will be second-team and Knight third. Honestly, I didn’t see anything about of Knight or Thompson that would make me uncomfortable if they get pressed into service.
Thompson looked pretty dangerous tucking and running with the ball. If Josh Heupel is feeling frisky, Thompson could even get a few series each game as a change of pace.
Knight seemed to be pressing at times. He was a little on the frenetic side at the line of scrimmage when getting the offense set. I just can’t see the coaching staff feeling as comfortable with Knight behind the wheel as Thompson or Bell.
*The choppy broadcast made it difficult to get a great feel for the play of the offensive line. They generally protected well. The running game was going downhill and hitting some decent-sized holes.
Seeing the team in live action highlighted the lack of depth up front, though. Three of the five second-team linemen were walk-ons. Bill Bedenbaugh could find himself looking for someone who can play as a utility man in the fall.
*Jay Norvell’s cup runneth over with talented receivers. Even with All-American candidate Jalen Saunders spending most of the afternoon on the sidelines, this unit played like the strongest individual position group on the team. That shouldn’t be a surprise, I guess.
Sophomore Durron Neal and redshirt freshman Derrick Woods are going to press for snaps.
*Just like last spring, Trey Metoyer’s stat line (6 receptions, 122 yards) is eye-catching. Keep in mind that he did most of his damage this time working against a walk-on cornerback. The former five-star recruit still has plenty to prove.
*As Jon Gruden will tell you, OU hasn’t gotten much out of the tight end as of late. Taylor McNamara sure as hell looks the part. Here’s hoping he settles down.
*Roy Finch had the highlight of the day on his 50-yard catch and run. Once again, OU’s jitterbug back is creating buzz in the spring. We’ll see.
Hard to get a read on the defense when the schemes are as vanilla as what OU ran today.
*I never thought I’d say this, but Trey Franks’ play at safety (7 tackles, 2 passes broken up) stood out more than any other performance on the defensive side of the ball. He closes on the ball so quickly.
He could end up playing a role in the secondary this season, especially given Gabe Lynn’s uneven history.
*The Sooners stayed almost exclusively in a 4-2-5, mixing in the occasional three-man front on third down. The change definitely had Corey Nelson more engaged in the action – less thinking, more reacting.
*Big defensive tackle Jordan Phillips remains a work in progress, but he had a solid day. I also think Charles Tapper will turn into a terror when all is said and done. On the whole, the front four managed to generate decent pressure on the passer without the ability to blitz.
*Mike Stoops’ postgame comments about competing in the Big 12 said it all about the kind of players OU is recruiting defensively. Even so, the lack of size across the board still gets me. Chuka Ndulue, for instance, needs to pack on some major pounds if he’s going to be a full-time defensive tackle.
*A quick special teams note: The punting game looks incredibly shaky.